If you struggle with getting distracted by your business competition, or just all the other fabulous people out there doing fabulous things, this episode is for you. Consider this a pep talk about staying in your own lane.
Podcast: Play In New Window
So last weekend I had a band gig. My band, The Isolators, was the support band for US ska / punk band Mustard Plug.
A little bit of background info (in case I haven’t told you before)…. I’m a trumpeter player. Music was such an important part of my life growing up and I feel so alive when I’m playing my trumpet and performing. Music was so important to me that for quite a while in my teens I wanted to be a professional musician. Sadly, not long after I made the decision to study environmental engineering rather than music, my trumpet stayed in its case while I worked in remote communities all around Australia where bands were virtually non-existent. In fact, it stayed in its case pretty much untouched for 24 years. I know. L
When our family moved from remote South Australia to Adelaide in early 2018 I vowed to get into music again. I registered myself on a website that helped musicians find bands, and bands find musicians, and in June last year I joined a new ska band and blew the cobwebs out of my trumpet.
From the first rehearsal I felt I was home.
I worked hard over several months to build up the muscles in my embouchure again and was delighted when my sound and range came back quickly. I guess muscles have memories and once a musician, always a musician!
Everyone in our band is naturally talented and we just gel. Lucky for us, our lead singer and guitarist (who incidentally is an aeronautical engineer come stay-at-home-dad) is a fabulous songwriter and we’ve had a constant stream of songs to perfect and make our own. Before no time at all we had enough original songs to play a full set at our first gig within six months of forming. This first performance couldn’t have been better and it was really well received.
Anyway, last weekend we had our second gig. As I mentioned, we were the support band for US ska / punk band Mustard Plug.
We were ready for the performance, had rehearsed our set and were ready, excited and confident to perform again.
There was another band on before us and of course we listened to them. From the moment their trumpet player played his first note my imposter syndrome flared up. His sound and range were brilliant and he was really confident on stage. One of my band members told me that much of the band had studied together at the Conservatorium of Music, and it showed. Their horn section was tight.
This band’s sound was much harder than ours and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. All of a sudden I wasn’t sure if the crowd would like us and our softer, less traditional ska and a bit more pop-like sound. I mentioned this to our Bass player, along with the fact I was a bit nervous and his response was that our songs are great and let’s just go out there, own them and give our best.
I wasn’t alone with the jitters though as our lead signer advised us just before we went on stage that we were dropping the first song from our set to instead start with our second song, one of our fastest and hardest. It seemed to go down well and the crowd looked at us with curiosity….they weren’t sure what to make of our sound.
As we moved through out set bit by bit people started dancing and enjoying the music, but I couldn’t work out if they were enjoying our music or taking the piss. The dance floor was full of guys covered with tattoos all dancing with each other; it was unlike anything I’d seen before and just felt a bit odd.
And then we got the jitters again. Half way through our set our lead singer said to drop another song, but quickly changed his mind. But out bass player didn’t hear the reverse of the decision so he started playing a different song. While we quickly recovered, and maybe the crowd didn’t notice, it was obvious that we’d been knocked off our course.
Almost at the end of our set we had another quick discussion whether or not to drop the last two songs from our set. Someone in the crowd had called out for some faster songs but we’d already played our heaviest stuff. We were really doubting ourselves.
But we made the decision to continue.
We played our last two songs as planned. They were brilliant and the crowd went wild. The dance floor was packed and everyone was singing along with us in the chorus.
Our gig finished and we were a bit stunned. They actually liked us. Really liked us.
Sure they were expecting a much harder sound, but they really enjoyed what they heard.
And of course many people in the crowd came up to us and said how much they loved it, wanted to know more about who were we and where were we next playing so they could watch us again.
Why am I sharing this story with you?
Because time and time again I see what happened in my band gig happen in my business or the businesses of my coaching clients.
Typically we have our plans and are cruising along quite nicely, but when we start to doubt ourselves and our abilities, and look out at what others are doing, we can so easily get off track.
Perhaps it shows up as not doing what we intended to do because we saw someone else do something similar.
Perhaps we have our work ready to release but see how someone’s done something similar but with a different take.
Or perhaps imposter syndrome gets the better of us and we start devaluing our talents, experience and even education and stall or even grind to a halt.
How can you overcome this and continue with your set list with full confidence in your band’s sound and ability? How can you best stay in your business lane and not come down with a case of comparisonitis?
Here’s four tips for staying in your lane so you can do your best work in the world.
1. Be a content curator, not a content consumer
Becoming mindful about the volume and type of content you consume will help keep you in your lane. I recommend prioritising the curation of your own content before consuming anyone else’s. That way you keep your ideas fresh and can create with freedom. It also keeps you free of comparisonitis.
2. Manage your social media usage
An average user spends 2 hours and 33 minutes per day on social media. That’s over two hours a day you could be building your business, working on your health or connecting with family and friends in person. While some of this time is you connecting with others (perhaps that school friend you haven’t seen in 25 years and actually weren’t that close friends at school anyway), the majority is bound to be mindless scrolling comparing someone else’s highlights reel with your reality. And that comparison makes us feel like crap and breeds anxiety and depression…which breeds indecision and inaction in our businesses.
Luckily, with a little discipline it can be managed. Remove social media notification aps from your phone, keep your smartphone away from your desk when you’re creating or publishing content and try and have a day or two a week social media free. Your headspace (and your business!) will thank you for it.
3. Clean up your inbox
Just like a phone buzzing with social media notifications is a distraction, a cluttered email inbox is not conducive to you staying in your lane and producing your best work.
Search for “unsubscribe” in your email and manually take yourself off mailing lists for those emails you never read or that feed your anxiety, or go to Unroll.me and unsubscribe in bulk.
It’s like a virtual Marie Kondo makeover for your inbox and your productivity!
4. Plan to stay on track
The fastest way to slip out of your lane is if you don’t have a lane to start with. And by that I mean you don’t have a clear plan and roadmap for where you’re taking your business.
By taking the time each year to develop a business plan (and it can just be one page!), checking in quarterly and tracking your performance indicators monthly, you’ll be building systems in your business to help keep you on track.
Benjamin Franklin was right when he said “By failing to prepare you’re preparing to fail.”
If we don’t manage our headspace and our working environment it can be so easy to get off track and distracted by others. By being a content curator rather than consumer, managing your social media usage, cleaning up your inbox and developing and checking in regularly with your business plan you’ll be best placed to stay in your lane, make a bigger impact and have everyone dancing to your original tunes.
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